21 December 2008
Ngugi wa Thiong'o
I have never met Ngugi wa Tiong'o, but like countless others, have been deeply influenced by his advocacy for African literature as the centre of literary study (as opposed to British literature). In 1996, I authored a similar revolution in Philippine tertiary education, when I solely and without asking anyone reversed the sequence of required literature subjects in colleges and universities. Philippine Literatures is now a prerequisite for World Literatures, thus ensuring that the definitions of the genres, such as poetry and fiction, are based on Philippine literary texts, with American, British, and, yes, African texts having to measure up to the standards set by Philippine writers. Like Ngugi, I decolonised my own mind by studying and teaching in the belly of the beast (in the Philippine case, the beast is the United States). Ironically, Filipinos that have never studied or taught outside the Philippines think that literary standards are set outside the country.